Could budtenders be the new bartenders? Government considers allowing cannabis bars in Toronto

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) is calling for the province to update its cannabis sector which includes allowing for consumption in lounges and cafes, permits for special occasions as well as prohibiting the “clustering” of cannabis stores, says an article in the Toronto Star.

In its submission to the Ford Government which will be released publicly on Thursday, the OCC urges that “Budget 2023 must focus on strengthening Ontario’s productivity, resilience and growth.”

The OCC is Canada’s largest, most influential provincial chamber and a non-profit advocacy group with 60,000 members that range from large multinational corporations to small businesses. For years, the group has been advocating for Canada to realize the economic benefits Canada as being a first mover in the emerging global cannabis market. On its website the OCC says the country must “address government rules that are impeding job growth, investment and the ability of regulated companies to compete with the entrenched illegal market.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, OCC president and CEO Rocco Rossi said that despite growth within the recreational cannabis sector, many retailers have “run into significant financial difficulty” and that illegal sales account for nearly half of all cannabis purchased.

“In an increasingly competitive world, what you want to be doing is to be constantly evolving — and make no mistake, there have been good steps taken but there’s more that can be done.” Rossi told the Star.

The article goes on to say that the OCC are hoping to see consumption sites like lounges and bars, but also similar spots where cannabis can be consumed  including pop-up zones at concerts and sports events and inside public venues.

In the interview, Rossi also said that store location is part of the issue and that when owners apply they should be told of the potential location of other  stores nearby. The OCC submission also suggests that an online map of approved stores and applications for new locations would “allow for more informed business decisions.”

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO